World War Two in the Pacific: 1942 – 1945

Slave Labourer in Nagasaki – Conclusion

The camp was rife with rumors. Sometimes David Brandon managed to smuggle in a newspaper left behind by a Japanese worker, but one day he was called by the Japanese interpreter, an ex-hairdresser from Surabaya, and interrogated by the commander.

David denied everything and was beaten and threatened with a revolver at his temple. Back in camp, in front of the guard house, his arms were tied behind his back and then he was hoisted up a pole in such a way that he had to stand on his toes and hang from his arms. He stayed in that position until the next day. More beatings followed until a U.S. Air Force officer, who was a spokesman for the English, Dutch and American officers, appealed to the international Red Cross in Tokyo even though Japan had not signed the Geneva Convention for POWs. David was transferred to the camp hospital, where he stayed for two or three weeks. His arms were grotesquely swollen because of the hanging.

In March 1944 we were overjoyed to see the first B-29 bombers fly overhead. There were no signs on the roof of the camp buildings to tell them that we were POWs. Up there they were free, while down below we were prisoners. We were put to work building tunnels into the rocky hills for air raid shelters. The air raid sirens now sounded several times a day.

In July 1945 I was transported to a coal mine in a crowded train with tightly shut windows – a twelve-hour ordeal. Although the camp looked very bad from the outside, it was an improvement over our previous camp. The small rooms housing six men each, allowed more privacy. Here we could take a bath every day, and we were given more food.

Working in the mines was very dangerous and there were many accidents. We did not see daylight till the weekends because we left each morning before sunrise and returned after sunset. We named the person in demand Crazywind. For such minor infractions as not having our buttons done up we were severely punished.

We sensed that freedom could not be far away. One evening we saw the red glow of a burning city. On August 15, 1945, we observed soldiers, strangely subdued, listening to their radio. Our POW officers were invited into the main office, where they were offered chairs. Then they heard that the Emperor had surrendered.

Gradually our officers took command. We were finally given the Red Cross parcels held back by the guards. Planes parachuted in many barrels of food. We shared our bounty with the Japanese and made excursions outside the camp. The people outside the camp looked very poor, because they had also suffered. Three of us had our picture taken and paid for it with a blanket.

On September 18, we were taken out of the camp. We took the train back to Nagasaki, but now every window was open, we yelled at the farmers in the fields. But we quieted down when we noticed the destruction all around us. All we could see were deserted streets and remnants of some concrete buildings. Everything else had burned down. The town was no more. The smell of burning hung in the air, and the shadows of the dead were everywhere. We only heard the clicking of the train going through this mass grave.

At the main station the American Red Cross was waiting for us. We were treated like kings; nice women served us tea and coffee. We were taken to a bath-house to clean ourselves and to be deloused and disinfected. All our possessions were burned, except for a few souvenirs which were also disinfected. I was flown to Okinawa and from there sent to Manila, where we were housed in a big tent to recuperate from our ordeal at the hand of the Japanese.

It is tragic that it took the total destruction of Hiroshima and Nagasaki to convince the Emperor to end the war that he had started. As for myself, I was left with the sobering thought that if I had not been sent to the mines, I would have perished by those very bombs that brought freedom to so many.

Excerpt by John Franken. Published earlier in Four Years till Tomorrow

As always: I welcome your comments.

Until next time,




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